Today nine of my favourite food, craft and lifestyle bloggers await behind nine haunted houses (undoubtedly catching up on their sleep) with an array of scary holiday treats created just for you. At the end of this post you’ll find links to the next houses on the block, which will in turn direct you to the next, and so on. It’s like real trick-or-treating, isn’t it? Except that you won’t accidentally eat a dozen mini chocolate bars or need to bundle a snowsuit under your costume, and in fact we won’t even know if you don’t put on a costume at all. (Or hey-if you’ve eaten way too many mini chocolate bars you can always blame it on the “bulky snowsuit” under your clothes.) Just curl up with your laptop and a mug of something warm (and/or boozy) and come visit the people in our neighbourhood.
I have to admit I like the idea of candy apples much more than the apples themselves; the caramel variety is almost impossible to get a grip on, the caramel slipping across the smooth apple skin as you plow it with your teeth. And I’m never quite sure how to approach the hard red candy kind; there is no way to be delicate when sweet shards are shattering all over your face, sticking to your cheeks. That said, I can’t let Halloween go by without making them.
While we’re being honest, I may as well admit that I don’t generally make the caramel kind because those little square caramels and I have a history; namely I was completely and all-encompassingly addicted to them a few years back. It was right after W was born, when people kept saying to me “you’re breastfeeding – you can eat whatever you want and you’ll totally lose weight!” Bollocks. I of course wanted to believe this and so put it to the test, downing my own weight in caramels daily. Their little wrappers were everywhere, even though I grabbed them and stuck them in my pockets anytime I went from room to room. I got panicky whenever my stash ran low. When I got a batch that were on the hard side, I carried them in my pockets until they softened up. Two months and 25 pounds later (I’m not even exaggerating) I had to quit cold turkey.
Even if I made the caramel from scratch, which is easy enough, I don’t trust myself not to overdo the taste testing – I have been known to singe my tongue licking out the pot. (Yes, using a spatula.) Besides, I love the look of red candy apples. I can admire them, and let the kids go bonkers for them, and not feel like I’m missing out on actually eating them.
Red Candy Apples
Apples that come pre-bagged tend to be smaller than those you pick from the display; the smaller ones are a better choice for candy apples. Make sure they are well washed and dried before you begin.
about a dozen small apples
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
several drops red food colouring
lollipop sticks, wooden popsicle sticks or small bamboo skewers
Wash and dry your apples; insert lollipop sticks, wooden popsicle sticks or small bamboo skewers into the stem end and set aside; line a baking sheet with foil or parchment.
Combine all the ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar (this is important – it will prevent crystallization, just stop stirring once the mixture comes to a boil). Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, swirling the pan occasionally but not stirring, until the mixture reaches 300F.
Immediately dip the apples by holding them by the stick and submerging them completely in the candy; tilt the pan as you need to in order to coat them well. If you would like to add candies or other toppings, sprinkle them over the apples (or dip their bottoms into a shallow bowl before the candy sets), then set them stick-up on the lined baking sheet. Set aside to harden and cool.
Once completely cooled, wrap each candy apple in cellophane. Makes about a dozen.
Sponge toffee was my favorite treat (OK, one of many) when I was a kid – my Mom would buy little blocks of it wrapped in cellophane for my sisters and I at the grocery store, and when we went skiing we’d always stop in Banff for chocolate covered chunks of it. (My sisters were always lured in by the candy apples.)
For something similar to a Crunchie bar (but far better), dip cooled chunks into melted chocolate and set on waxed paper until set.
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
2 tsp. baking soda
Line a 9″x13″ pan with foil.
Combine the sugar and syrup in a heavy medium saucepan set over medium-low heat. (Make sure there is lots of room in the pan for the mixture to foam up when you stir in the baking soda.) Stir until the sugar begins to melt. Continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally but not stirring, until the mixture turns a deep amber. Watch it carefully – sugar burns fast!
Remove from heat and quickly stir in the baking soda. It will foam up like a science experiment! Quickly pour it into the pan and set aside for an hour, or until set. Peel off the foil and break into chunks to serve. Serves about 10.
Whooo’s Next? To see what our other blog hosts have cooked up for your creating / eating / decorating pleasure, click on one of the haunted homes below!